I’ve spent a really large amount of time in the last couple of weeks trying to guess what Albert Pujols thinks is most important.
But the one question I haven’t found an answer to is: Which is more valuable, $60 million or a statue?”
It sounds like a ridiculous question on its face. Especially to a blue collar fan. But what if you already had a quarter of a billion dollars in the bank?
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Do you really need a proportionally small amount of money that you’re never going to spend anyway -- or the immortal adoration of generations of countless Cardinals fans.
I think it is going to take at least $235-$240 million over eight years for the Cardinals to sign Pujols. Is it worth it for him to hold out for the magic $300 million mark to surpass Alex Rodriguez for the richest contract in history -- even if it means that he has to go to California, New York or (shudder) Chicago to get it?
I’m pretty sure that if Pujols retired tomorrow that he’s done enough to get a statue built in his likeness outside of Busch Stadium. Not one of the little ones on the northwest corner of the ballpark. But a big one like Musial’s effigy outside of the west gate.
What’s a couple of tons of bronze worth? To me, just about everything. Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Rogers Hornby and Ozzie Smith didn’t get a big statue. Pujols has a chance for a more special place in Cardinals history than any of them. Wow.
Could you imagine taking your grandkids to a game someday and showing them that you were such a part of the fabric of one of baseball’s greatest franchises and of the city of St. Louis that they built you a statue? You can’t buy something like that for $60 million.
Sure, you could easily afford to pay someone to sculpt your own likeness for $60 million. But it’s the sentiment behind it that counts. Building it yourself means nothing.
When the games are over and the cheers have died down, Pujols is still going to have several dozen lifetimes worth of money in the bank. But what will be his legacy if he leaves St. Louis?
Could he pass on the chance to rewrite the Cardinals record book? don’t think I could.
The Yankees or Red Sox aren’t going to build Pujols a statue. There, he’s sort of just another guy to them. A great player. But he’s not really from there.
Maybe the Cubs would build Pujols a statue. But that would be a dubious honor. After all, the Cubs first statue was a creepy likeness of Harry Carray -- a lifelong Cardinals fan and broadcaster who had the historical misfortune of landing with the Wee Bears when he was well past his prime after being let go by three other franchises.
Pujols has the incredible opportunity to be the greatest player in franchise history. Three or four years ago you’d be shouted down in the bleachers for even suggesting Musial might be surpassed as the Top Cardinal of All Time.
Stan the Man hit 475 homers in 21 seasons. Pujols has hit 408 homers in half that time. In perfect symmetry, Albert and Stan have identical .331 batting averages. He fits into Cardinals history. If he leaves when Cardinals fans talk about Pujols they’ll say “He was a great player, but...”
What it boils down to is, does Pujols really want to be like Stan the Man -- or is it more important to be like A-Rod?
I think I’d take the statue.